FINALLY!

Ken Hoffman finds a goldmine for every '80s Houston Wrestling fan

Jake the Snake/Instagram

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

I became a true Houstonian the first night I moved here from Phoenix. I pulled into a dump hotel on 610 near the Galleria, unhitched the 5-by-8 U-Haul packed with all my worldly possessions, and headed straight to the Sam Houston Coliseum for a night of Houston Wrestling.

The main event was the Sheepherders vs. the Fantastics in a tag-team cage match. It was love at first sight … of blood. I heard there was an expression in the south, if wrestlers wanted to see green (money), the promoter wanted to see red (blood). Who knows if that was true, probably isn't, doesn't matter.

Man, that was one wooly night. I grew up in the northeast, so the only wrestling I watched on TV was WWE (formerly WWF, formerly WWWF), and babyface stars like Bruno Sammartino, Pedro Morales, Bob Backlund, and heels like Macho Man Randy Savage, Larry Zbyszko, and the Wild Samoans. But I knew all about Houston Wrestling and Friday nights at the Coliseum from wrestling magazines. I couldn't wait.

I am a wrestling fan. I loved it as a kid, still do, even though it's changed, not sure for the better. Early on in Houston, I got to know Paul Boesch, the legendary wrestling promoter.

Ken wrestles with Houston Wrestling

Quick story about the time he blew up in a rage at me. I had a friend who worked for WWE up in Connecticut. He called one day and said, "We just signed Jake the Snake Roberts and he starts with us in two weeks. Well, Snake was the local champion in Houston, and that meant he had to drop the title before he left for WWE. It's was the unwritten rule in wrestling, if the champion was leaving a promotion, he lost the title on his way out.

Not the smartest thing I've ever done, I wrote in my little column, "Jake the Snake will defend his title Friday night against Dirty Dick Slater, and you can bet the ranch that Roberts will lose … because he's joining WWE in two weeks."

Boesch was so incensed that I gave away the ending to his main event, he had Roberts win the match. I changed the course of history! Two days later, when the match aired on Channel 39 (now CWB39), there was Roberts celebrating his win and threatening me to keep my mouth shut. I was scared to death, sitting in my underwear, watching on TV.

Do a YouTube search for "Jake Roberts threatens me." It's there. You'll understand why I was so frightened. Freddy Krueger in Nightmare on Elm Street had nothing on Snake Roberts.

I was hooked on Houston Wrestling, and Friday nights at the Coliseum became a ritual. But like many regional "territories," Boesh and Houston Wrestling was bought/forced out by Vince McMahon and WWE. Unlike other promotions, Boesch and his family (later lawyers) refused to sell the Houston Wrestling video library to McMahon.

For years, readers would ask, "How can I get tapes from Houston Wrestling? At long last, now.

Continue on CultureMap to learn how to get a DVD from Houston Wrestling.

WWE's Royal Rumble arrives this Sunday at Minute Maid Park. Photo by Paul Muth

I'm not a big sign guy.

You know sign guys. The people who write puns on posters. The ones who carry the letter "D" in one had and a cutout of a literal fence in the other. The "Houston, YOU have a problem" sign guys.

I tried it once when I was 14, was punched in the face, and sort of lost my appetite after that.

Let me explain.

It was April 1, 2001. Wrestlemania 17. I won't ask my parents how much it cost them, but my aunt and uncle scored floor seats to the greatest spectacle in sports entertainment in no better confines than the Astrodome herself and I got to tag along.

It was a hell of a show. Some say it was one of the best Wrestlemanias ever. The card was stacked, including a Triple-H match against the hometown hero The Undertaker that set the stage for the main event.

At precisely two hours and forty-eight minutes into the event, Undertaker sent Triple-H flying over the barricade and "INTO THE STANDS!"

"Holy crap," 14-year-old Paul thought. "They're headed right down my aisle."

Now I'm not sure how it works these days, but back then it was totally customary to bail on your seat and follow the fight as they weaved up and down the aisles. I wasn't about to miss the chance so I grabbed my poorly scribbled wrestling poster, glanced back and my Aunt for the OK, then darted after the action.

The fight snaked its way up to some scaffolding with a camera perched atop. There, the fight would stall as they battled their way to the top. Oblivious to anything but the action in front of me, I threw my sign up as high as I could, probably screamed at the top of my lungs, and my voice probably cracked in the process. I was 14.

Suddenly someone pushed me in the back of my shoulder. I turned around and there was an old lady, maybe five feet tall, standing on her chair. She had the quintessential cowgirl big hair and enough costume jewelry on to short-circuit a metal detector.

"GET THE @#$% OUT THE WAY, BOY," she commanded in the most east Texas accent you've ever heard in your life. I ignored her and turned back around.

Then she pushed me again.

I turned around again and before I had any clue what was happening, this knockoff mini Dolly Parton had already connected a stiff left hook to my temple. She then grabbed my sign and ripped it in half. Stunned, I retreated to my seat while tending to a now bleeding eyebrow thanks to what I assume was a Wal-Mart engagement ring.

Haven't really been a big sign guy since.

But this weekend the WWE takes over Minute Maid Park for their annual Pay-Per-View event known as the Royal Rumble. It will be the first time since that fateful night in the Astrodome 19 years ago that I've returned to a high profile wrestling event.

Now am I looking forward to this weekend as an opportunity to retake the dignity that was ripped away so long ago? Probably not. I'll most likely just drink a bunch of beer and yell at wrestlers with my friends. But I'm not ruling anything out.

Now instead of a power rankings this week, I figured that in the spirit of the Royal Rumble we could rehash some of the best sports fights Houston's served up:

#5 Charles Barkley throws man through window

Now I know this one didn't happen on a court, but the story is just too good. In a classic case of "play stupid games, win stupid prizes," a 5'2" Floridian by the name of Jorge Lugo decided to harrass the 6'6" then-power forward for the Houston Rockets at an Orlando bar . Barkley ignored and avoided the issue until a Lugo-thrown glass intended for Barkley missed and struck a nearby woman. Bad move. When judge presiding over the ensuing case asked Barkley if he had any regrets, The Round Mound of Rebound replied "Yeah, I regret we weren't on a higher floor."

#4 Chris Paul serves a two-piece to Rajon Rondo

This one is actually fairly recent and adds to what I discovered was a hefty list of Rockets throw downs. After breaking up a stare down between Lakers forward Brandon Ingram and James Harden, Paul and Rondo began a heated chest-to-chest exchange. From all replay indications it appeared as if Rondo then spit on Paul, which triggered a disrespectful finger push to Rondo's face, which then descended into a good old fashioned knuckle sandwich exchange. Paul was suspended for two games.

#3 Derrick Lewis verifies amateur of amateur status

Some dude actually had the nerve to walk in to UFC Heavyweight fighter and Houston native Derrick Lewis' gym and pick a fight. The amateur claimed that he would knock Lewis out because he was an MMA fighter, and not a real boxer. "The Black Beast" was more than happy to oblige, and swiftly teleported the no name into the shadow realm.

#2 Vernon Maxwell fights Portland man

Sometimes people forget that sporting events are intended to be family friendly. Some also forget that players are people with actual feelings. Maxwell claims that aside from general harassment, a Portland fan decided to bring Maxwell's wife's recent miscarriage to light as well. Maxwell stood up from the bench, calmly walked up the stairs, and knocked the crap out of the dude. Maxwell was suspended 10 games.

#1 Andre Johnson baptizes Courtland Finnegan

It had been seasons in the making. Finnegan had built a reputation out of adding cheap shots here and there, ripping helmets off at the end of plays, and various other dirty tactics. In late November of 2010 Johnson had reached the end of his rope. Schadenfreude was the flavor of the day for all Texans fans as Johnson manhandled Finnegan, reigning down fists of righteous justice.

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